Why ‘Birth to Three’ really does matter – my take on this Framework.

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Since the publication of the ‘Birth to Three’ document in 2003, childcare and early years’ education has always been at the centre of giving children a better start for both the child and their families. I fundamentally believe that the early years’ settings that provide this care have not lost their passion to continue to do this. But in recent years, the importance of Early Care and Education seems to have been eroded, rather than celebrated. We have had many people in power who have seen to this. We now have an MP who doesn’t value Early Years, yet he has been given the remit to oversee such a fundamental time of a child’s life. We must get this right and not ignore the issues.

There has been a shift that applies to how early years’ settings are doing with their inspections and the data shows, more than ever, that they are doing well. But this comes at a cost. A cost that many private and nursery schools are having to face with reduced budgets and a sector that really feels lost and undervalued at the moment. It is important to move forwards with new initiatives, but my reasoning for this post isn’t to blame anyone but demonstrate why the ‘Birth to Three’ really does matter and how it supports current child centred practicetoday. It is an old framework, but I still use when I am teaching and it would be lovely to hear others that use this document to support their practice. I am sure I am not the only one…or am I??

We all know that high quality childcare is crucial in ensuring that all children arrive at school being ready and able to learn. It is important to mention here that ‘School Readiness’ has always been there; we have just given it a fancy word. Just not in the way that we currently feel that Early Years is being eroded for a “Schoolification” type system. I know it’s not a word you may have seen but it’s my word, the way I see our youngest children, parents and families being subjected to schooling and the importance of this before the development of the child. The ‘Birth to Three’ document allowed us as practitioners to understand the valuable impact that we have with children and their families. It provided a crucial step in being able to break the cycle of deprivation in which so many families have been trapped and are still being trapped under a Conservative Government. As a Children’s Centre Teacher, this document was my lifeline. It was such a great tool to be able to work within a multi-agency approach and, most importantly, with the parents and families that I was supporting and working with.

I am still able to relate the framework and discuss how this can support practice, especially with the practitioners/ students I currently work with. It highlights and recognisesthat valuing our youngest children will inevitably allow us to see the contribution that is made on the children they are caring for. I also continually ask my practitioners and students to reflect. Reflection and observation allows you as a practitioner to see the growth and development being made in a child-centred way, as well as ensuring that you take an approach that ensures the child is ‘ready’. It is about when the child makes those milestones that is important. My own use of the framework allowed me to see that from birth; children were already competent learners from many rich experiences from their environments, which as practitioners we are able to build upon, plan and develop.

Having such a framework to support practitioners working with children from the age range of birth to three was a milestone in recognising and valuing our youngest children. I am not stating that we don’t do this today, but it did give me an opportunity to reflect and give me a place to go to be able to do this effectively.

I don’t know about you, but the 0-3 age range and practitioner status within this field feels a little lost within the system. A time where we once had a place, a voice and a status which allowed us to be seen as fundamental to the work and futureof our youngest children. We are still grossly underpaid and lack the investment needed to really make sure that we are breaking the cycle of deprivation. I feel that such a framework, re-introduced today, would not only instil the value and recognition needed by such a valuable and outstanding sector, but it would also raise the status of the work with this important age group. Once again, supporting the quality and effective practice from birth to three. This will need to be developed with practitioners and be able to draw on their wealth of experience in the childcare sector. I don’t know about you, but I feel it is time to utilise the voice and outstanding research, practice and determination that this sector has for our children. We have much research but not many policy makers making use of it. We have people liaising with policy makers, but it’s the ground practitioners we need to be speaking to.

The sector needs to be represented by more than just education voices. It needs to include Child Minders, Nursery practitioners, Day Care, Parents and Families, Charity Provisions, Early Help Services, Health and Playgroups. All of these groups fundamentally make up the voice of the child and support the advocacy of our youngest children.

So how can we do this? I have my own views on the types of documents for a 2019 child, taking on board that many children are now in more deprivation than when the framework started in 2003! But I cannot put the ‘Birth to Three’ document down, mainly due to the two principles which underpin the framework:

  • Parents and Families are central to the well-being of the child
  • Relationships with other people (both adults and children) are of crucial importance in a child’s life

This makes me focus on why I do and did teach in such a way. I want to use my voice to focus on a child centred approach to the principles above.

For me it’s simple, “Schoolification” is not the only thing we need to focus on, but the relationships we need to have with children and their families. Valuing the child for being unique and individual to others.

If you have never worked with babies, I suggest that you go and do so. I have to state that I now fully understand the need to work and reflect in a child centred way by celebrating and valuing babies and children in ways that I wasn’t able to do as effectively within a Nursery and Reception class in a school. Working with babies helped me understand and recognise their individuality, recognise the efforts that were being presented and the need to recognise the development, growth and learning through interaction and the exploration of the world around them. This had to be the most influential opportunity to learn a fundamental nurtured opportunity of learning through a holistic approach.

You may not agree with me, but until we get a better more focused framework I will always state that the use of the‘Birth to Three’ framework enhances your practice, understanding and value of the child. I for one would welcome a ‘come back’ for something like this to demonstrate the outstanding work that the sector within the 0-3 age range contributes to the future opportunities of the child.


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